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Mon Dec 3, 2012, 12:06 AM

I just saw "Killing Them Softly"

A cinematic metaphor of America. I predict it will be a topic here on DU as more of us see it.

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Reply I just saw "Killing Them Softly" (Original post)
RagAss Dec 2012 OP
monmouth3 Dec 2012 #1
RagAss Dec 2012 #2
Lydia Leftcoast Dec 2012 #3
monmouth3 Dec 2012 #4

Response to RagAss (Original post)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 06:32 AM

1. Brad Pitt received so-so ratings. What did you think?..

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Response to monmouth3 (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 10:26 PM

2. I thought it was a powerful message that was poorly executed by the cast and editing.

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Response to RagAss (Original post)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 10:59 PM

3. Poorly executed is right

The political message was heavy-handed (loud speeches by Bush, McCain, and Obama on TV in the background and one final line), the characters were all unlikable, the plot went nowhere, and the movie was actually predictable and BORING. It was a below-average movie about criminals that tacked on a political statement at the end.

Now I'm a pretty sophisticated filmgoer. I love foreign films, and I even liked The Long Day Closes, which is basically some guy's random memories of his childhood. However, I couldn't wait for this one to be over, and I kept falling asleep, only to be awakened by gunfire periodically. My two brothers, who are not particularly sophisticated filmgoers, hated it, too. In fact, the brother who suggested it apologized.

Just because you make a movie about foul-mouthed, stupid, chain-smoking, hard-drinking lowlifes who can't even make a success of crime, write dialogue that sounds like a bad David Mamet play, and film gun murders in slow motion doesn't make you a profound filmmaker. It doesn't matter if you get James Gandolfini to do his Tony Soprano shtick, and I do mean his exact Tony Soprano shtick, only with the character having a different name.

The screenwriter was thinking in terms of one-dimensional stock characters, most likely borrowed from other movies. Contrast this with The Sopranos, written by David Chase, who grew up among Italian-Americans in New Jersey and knew actual Mafiosi. His characters are vicious criminals, but they are fully developed characters with ironic quirks and highly compartmentalized lives who both see themselves as fine, upstanding citizens and devout Catholics and realize that what they are doing is illegal. Deep down, they even realize that they're immoral, but they're capable of all sorts of rationalizations and self-deceptions.

You wanna see political and social commentary skillfully woven into interesting storylines? Try The Wire, which uses the Baltimore ghetto as a microcosm of American society. Yes, many of the characters are lowlifes, but they're not JUST lowlifes--they have back stories, families, some good qualities, and even hopes that go beyond the next score.

It's perhaps significant that both these series were on the subscription-only channel HBO so that the people who created the series didn't have to worry about pleasing sponsors.

If you want to see films and even television with real social and political commentary and fully realized characters, try some of these British products, only some of which are about crime: The Street (an anthology of stories about working class people living on one street), A Very British Coup (what would happen if a real socialist became prime minister?), The State Within (dark dealings in international diplomacy), Fish Tank (a young girl growing up in a dead-end housing project), Ladybird, Ladybird (what happens when the social work system gets too caught up in rules), Priest (not the recent American horror flick, but a thoughtful drama about two priests who each in his own way has to struggle with the Catholic church's rules), Bodies (a medical "registrar"--that's Britspeak for "resident"-- deals with coverups of a senior doctor's mistakes), and Waterloo Road (about a school). The Irish drama Proof: Prescription for Murder is about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. The tradition of socially aware dramas goes back to The War Game, a 1965 pseudo-documentary about nuclear war, which manages to be extremely disturbing without any special effects.

I can't imagine any of these being made for U.S. television or even movies without being prettied up and redrawn in crayon in capital letters. Compare and contrast: the original British version of Life on Mars with the bland American remake, or even worse, the original Prime Suspect with the American remake, starring an actress who looks as if she never smoked a cigarette or closed down a bar and solves every crime in an hour.

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